Valentine’s Day began in a happy frame of mind for many of the 3,200 students arriving at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school, some clutching handmade love hearts for classmates and flowers for their teachers.
But by the end of the day, 17 people would be dead, allegedly killed by a former student, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, who had been expelled from the school for unspecified disciplinary reasons. The mass shooting is at least the eighth episode involving gun death or injury at a US school this year.
Terrified teenagers huddled together with their teachers in classrooms, closets and bathrooms as the gunman, armed with smoke grenades, a semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle, and wearing a gas mask, moved from room to room, opening fire indiscriminately.
Seventeen people have been killed and 15 hospitalised after gunman attacked Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school.
Here is what we now know about the events that unfolded at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday.
- Seventeen people – children and adults – were killed when a gunman entered the high school on Wednesday afternoon and launched an attack. Twelve people were found dead inside the school, two were killed outside the building, one in the street, and two died later in hospital from their injuries.
- The suspect was named by police as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz. He was arrested in the nearby city of Coral Springs, and charged with 17 counts of murder on Thursday morning.
- The killer was armed with an AR-15 rifle and “multiple magazines”, police said. He bought the gun legally
- Cruz was formerly a student at Douglas, but was expelled for disciplinary reasons. A teacher at the school said staff had been warned not to let him back on campus. The suspect had reportedly been receiving treatment for mental health issues. The FBI was reportedly alerted to a post he made on YouTube claiming “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”
- Twelve of those killed have been identified, police said on Wednesday evening. No names of victims have yet been released, but Sheriff Scott Israel said a football coach was among those lost, and the parents of a student named her on Facebook.
- Fifteen victims remain in hospital: five in a life-threatening condition and 10 with injuries that are not life-threatening.
- Students who had been at school with Cruz said many classmates had predictedhe could “do something” to harm them and that he had previously brought guns to school.
- Teacher Melissa Falkowski said drills for a code red (active shooter) situation had been well rehearsed:
We could not have been more prepared for this situation … we have trained for this, we have trained the kids for what to do … We did everything that we were supposed to do.
I feel today like our government, our country, has failed us and failed our kids and didn’t keep us safe.
- Distressing messages from children in lockdown inside the school to their parents show the terror as teachers barricaded their students into classrooms and closets to evade the gunman.
- The tragedy appears to be the eighth deadliest mass shooting in modern US history. It is also one of at least eight US school shootings so far in 2018 that have caused injury or death.
- President Donald Trump tweeted his “prayers and condolences” to those affected, but decided not to speak about the attack, reports said. On Thursday morning, he tweeted again: “Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”
- But others said thoughts and prayers were not enough. Chris Murphy, senator for Connecticut – site of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, in which 26 children and adults were killed – said:
This happens nowhere else other than the United States of America. This epidemic of mass slaughter, this scourge of school shooting after school shooting.
It only happens here not because of coincidence, not because of bad luck, but as a consequence of our inaction. We are responsible.
Asked if the tragedy should lead to stricter gun control for people with mental health issues, a parent replied: “I don’t want to get into a gun debate. I really don’t. What are you going to do? Confiscate everybody’s guns? We have millions and millions of weapons … I’m a gun owner. I don’t want the government taking my gun.”
Michael Irwin, another parent whose son attended the school, shared Crescitelli’s view.
“All the regulation in the world wouldn’t have prevented necessarily what happened today. It’s something that’s tragic, but what regulation can you pass that takes away the guns that are already out there?” he said.
His son was waiting to hear if one of his close classmates was among the dead. By late Wednesday evening, Irwin said, the student was still missing.
Such a perspective was not shared by Israel, who argued during an evening press conference that people with mental health issues should not be able to purchase or use firearms.
Among those absent from the debate was Donald Trump. By the late evening, reports emerged that the president would not be speaking in public about the mass shooting, despite aides advising him otherwise.
Earlier in the day Trump had tweeted a message to send his “prayers and condolences”, adding: “No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.”
SOURCES: The Bloomgist/CNN/New York Times/The Guardian, UK and agencies
Categories: International News